May 11, 2020

The end of college

I wish I had some tidy, pretty summation of everything that college was to me. I don't know—it was just a lot of living! The good, and bad, and trying, and effortless, and ugly, and brilliant, and a lot of other extremes, and everything in between. I'm looking for a phrase to describe this, and I think I've settled on intense life.

The last few months, these have been the moments where I've paused and thought,
I want to remember exactly how this feels

A sun-soaked day outside a coffee shop, crisp morning air before the sun rises, a late night at McDonald's, a loud party with sticky floors, lying on the living room rug surrounded by string lights and good music. So many others. I don't really know when I started to collect these moments of intense life either. Maybe once I realized senior year would a series of lasts and I didn't want to regret letting a single one pass me by without acknowledging it.

I keep going back to the first of these moments, which I've started calling my first formative experience of college. It was freshman year. I had just returned to campus a few days early at the end of winter break. I got to the train station after dark, surprised to find that the weather was unexpectedly nice even though it had just snowed. I walked back to my dorm because I wasn't carrying much. Crunching through the undisturbed snow, the world nearly silent around me, I realized I was completely alone.

That was when I fully grasped the feeling of aloneness. Sure, I'd been learning this feeling in all the ways that come with starting college. Eating alone, walking alone, studying alone, having no one to share an experience with but myself, and no way to fully communicate what I experience to anyone else, because who can? We can try to communicate our experiences (I'm trying right now), but really, I think we're mostly alone. And that aloneness is knowing that I'm the only witness to every single thing I do. I'm the one to thank, the one to blame, the one who can make my own life great, beautiful, worth living, or not.

So college has been grasping that aloneness fearlessly and wholeheartedly, in all those moments of intense life! It's been learning how to dream, and want, and reach for things. It's been the coming of age, I think, in pretty much the way that books describe it. It's been feeling thankful, and humbled, and how is this even my life? It's been surrounding myself with people who push me to grow, who make me ask more of myself, consider more, appreciate more. College has been rigor, and it's been indulgence. So many times I didn't think I could make it through, and so many times I didn't want to end.

Now, sitting here at the end (which is my childhood bedroom), I'm just so grateful. For incredible opportunities, and wonderful people, and so much learning. And for intense life, which I promise myself I'll keep seeking out and living.

There's so much more I haven't said. Exactly a year ago, I was in Malaysia living second after second of intense life! Sometimes I'm surprised that I remember so many things, big and small, from the last four years. But then again, why wouldn't I, when it was all so beautiful and important to me? Reflecting on this all will take a lot more time, but for today, my last day of college, this is enough. △